Google+

Caro on the Straight and Narrow

 

Niki Caro,  "The Zookeeper's Wife” Interview, New Zealand, Director/screenwriter, Whale Rider, North Country, Holocaust, Jessica ChastainNiki Caro

“The Zookeeper’s Wife” Interview

with Kam Williams
Caro on the Straight and Narrow

Director/screenwriter Niki Caro is one of the most successful filmmakers to emerge from New Zealand. After completing a BFA at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland, as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Film from Swinburne in Melbourne, Australia, Niki wrote and directed a number of highly-acclaimed shorts.

Sure to Rise screened at the 1994 Cannes International Film Festival, and Footage was shown at the 1996 Venice International Film Festival. Her first full-length feature, Memory & Desire, focused on a Japanese married couple and was selected for Critics Week at the 1998 Cannes International Film Festival. It went on to win four New Zealand Film and Television Awards, including Best Film.

Niki’s sophomore offering, Whale Rider, explored the Maori community of Whangara on New Zealand’s East Coast, and made an impact globally. Whale Rider was seen by millions of people and won over two dozen prizes around the world, including top honors at the Toronto (the People’s Choice Award), Sundance (the Audience Award), Rotterdam, San Francisco, Maui, and Seattle (Best Film) Film Festivals. The film’s star Keisha Castle-Hughes landed an Academy Award nomination for Best Lead Actress, becoming what was then the youngest nominee ever in the category.

Niki next directed North Country, a drama set on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. The film starred Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sissy Spacek and Woody Harrelson. Theron and McDormand were nominated for Oscars in the Best Lead Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories, respectively.

Continuing to illuminate real lives and real communities onscreen, Niki directed the sleeper hit McFarland, USA, starring Kevin Costner. Set in California’s Central Valley, the inspirational docudrama chronicled the real-life exploits of an all-Latino cross-country track team.

Here, Niki talks about her new film, The Zookeeper’s Wife, a World War II biopic starring Jessica Chastain as an intrepid heroine who saved hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust.

Niki Caro,  "The Zookeeper's Wife” Interview, New Zealand, Director/screenwriter, Whale Rider, North Country, Holocaust, Jessica Chastain

Kam Williams: Hi Niki, thanks for the interview. I’m honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.

Niki Caro: Oh, that’s very kind of you to say, Kam.

KW: I love all your films. In fact, your last one, McFarland, USA, was #13 on my Top 100 list for 2015.

NC: That’s amazing! You’ve made my day.

KW: I was really moved by it, as I was by this one. I went into the theater a little skeptical about the plot. Even though it’s true, a story about a woman saving both zoo animals and hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust just sounded a little farfetched. Yet, you had me weeping by the end of the picture.

NC: Great!

KW: What interested you in The Zookeeper’s Wife?

NC: The radical humanity of the Zabinskis.

KW: Was that from reading the book?

NC: No, I’m ashamed to have to admit I hadn’t. Neither had I ever heard of Antonina Zabinski [played by Jessica Chastain], let alone of the role she played in history. Here was this intriguing story in script form that I couldn’t believe was true. And yet it was. I felt it offered a really new way to talk about the Holocaust, a way that really spoke about heart, hope and humanity. And about feelings too.

KW: The movie has many tasteful touches of humor. How did you manage to do that without offending the audience? How do you know what humor will or won’t work when you’re dealing with such serious subject matter? It must be hard making sure you don’t cross a line.

NC: Well, I always take my inspiration from the true story, which in this case was Antonina. It was wonderful to me that her instinct to nurture and protect animals translated so effortlessly to the human species. And the way she created a sanctuary was so feminine. That influenced the filmmaking in a very big way. It’s a very feminine look at the Holocaust. It certainly speaks about war in a very feminine fashion. Of course, war didn’t just happen to men, as many war movies suggest. It also happened to women, to children and to animals, and I felt that this film uniquely gave them a voice. And it gave women, in particular, a way to express femininity as strength.

KW: Absolutely! I definitely don’t remember ever seeing war presented so intimately from a woman’s perspective.

NC: Well, there you go. We’re still somewhat unfamiliar with stories being told from a female’s point-of-view. So, i hope that makes this story kind of fresh.

KW: It sure does. After I saw the film, I couldn’t help but wonder why the movie wasn’t released during awards season. This movie has Oscars written all over it.

NC: That wasn’t my decision. There are a whole lot of factors that are weighed in determining when a movie’s released, and none of those determinations are made by the filmmaker. [Laughs] But I’m really happy it’s being released now.

KW: I point it out only because you’ve already directed three actresses to Academy Award nominations, and Jessica Chastain does such a terrific job, here. I just think the film would get serious Oscar consideration, if it were released in November or December.

NC: It still could. And if that is the case, it will really have earned it, because it will have stuck in people’s minds.

KW: What is your secret to coaxing Oscar-quality performances out of actresses?

NC: Gosh! the first secret is in casting really great actresses with whom I can have a genuine collaboration, and remain open to their contributions and their brilliance. I try to create an environment on set where they feel very secure and very supported, so that they can take risks and do what I hope is some of their best work.    

KW: When did you develop your interest in directing? Were you one of those kids who was constantly playing around with a video camera as a child?

NC: No, playing around with video cameras was not from my generation. [Chuckles] I never even saw a movie camera until I was in my late teens. I loved movies, but I didn’t necessarily think I could make them. Growing up in New Zealand, I thought of movies as something that Americans made until I saw a film by Jane Campion.

KW: The Piano?

NC: No, her first film, Sweetie. That movie knocked me sideways. I couldn’t believe it, because I recognized it. And I must admit it’s super-weird. But, for the first time, I saw something I recognized from my own world. That gave me a huge amount of confidence. And I remain incredibly inspired by her.I’m a great, big fan of hers. 

KW: Who are some of your other favorite directors?

NC: Back then, I felt very similarly about the work of another New Zealand filmmaker, Vincent Ward. Now, in terms of what I’ve seen recently. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight was absolutely stunning. And so was Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. I love musicals. He’s adorable, Damien. A lovely person. And so talented.

KW: Ling-Ju Yen asks: What is your earliest childhood memory?

NC: I remember the joyousness of sitting in the bath at the age of 3, listening to the radio with my dad and singing “Me and Bobby McGee” at the top of my voice.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

NC: Oh God! [Chuckles] I see myself.

  

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

NC: Sorry, I’m drawing a blank. I’ve been asked so many questions.

KW: Larry Greenberg asks: Do you have a favorite movie monster?   

NC: I want to see that new Kong movie, but monsters isn’t so much my preferred genre.

  

KW: What is your favorite genre?

NC: I love drama, obviously, especially when it’s really human, when it’s funny, and when it lifts me out of my world. And I love documentary, too.

KW: Tell me a little about your upcoming film, Callas. I assume that’s about Maria Callas.

NC: Yes, it’s a project I’ve been working on for a very long time, and won’t be making in the near future, because I’m moving on to Mulan. But Maria is very special to me.

KW: Finally, what’s in your wallet?

NC: I have two passports, a picture of my mother, my brother and me on a very unremarkable-looking beach. And some pictures of my kids, and a bunch of airline cards.

KW: Thanks again for the time, Niki, and best of luck with the film.

NC: Thank you so much, Kam. Have a good evening.

Source:  GIG News

Entertainment

Top Ten DVD List for May 23, 2017

  This Week’s DVD Releases by Kam Williams Top Ten DVD List for May 23, 2017 Get Out                https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06WW76HBM/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 Shake the Dust https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06XRJ27W5/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 My Life as a Zucchini https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06WRTFKRY/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 All Governments … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

  Rising Star The Making of Barack Obama  by David J. Garrow William Morrow Hardcover, $45.00 1472 pages ISBN: 978-0-06-264183-0 Book Review by Kam Williams “Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly catapulted him into the national spotlight and led to his election four years later as America's first African-American president. In this penetrating biography, David J. Garrow delivers an epic work … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder

  History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder by Amy Lignor   For the longest time, scientists and archaeologists have been confused and bemused by various discoveries they’ve unearthed that offer little or no explanation as to the who, what, and why of the people who created these things or left them behind. Even now, in 2017, there are discoveries being studied; stories that were once legends now have actual bits of proof being found that … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

Stunning Stenberg!

  Amandla Stenberg The “Everything, Everything” Interview with Kam Williams Stunning Stenberg! Amandla Stenberg first gained recognition for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games, alongside Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson. After the success of that film, Amandla earned the 2012 Teen Choice Award with Jennifer for Best Film Chemistry. She was also nominated for NAACP Image and Black Reel Awards for that … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Come to Tuna Town for the Best Offshore Fishing

  Come to Tuna Town for the Best Offshore Fishing                        By Craig Lamb Take a short drive south of New Orleans, and you come to the southernmost point in Louisiana. It's Venice and being at the end of the road is just the beginning of your trip for world-class yellowfin tuna fishing at Home Run Fishing Charters & Lodge. The business’ phone number even includes the fish: (504) 909-TUNA. “It’s why everybody wants to … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

A Sport Where You Feel the Thrill Without Going to the Extreme

  A Sport Where You Feel the Thrill Without Going to the Extreme by Amy Lignor   There are many sports “fanatics” out there who literally dive head-first into an extreme sport in order to get their adrenaline pumping – taking on a sport that comes hand-in-hand with a monumental amount of risk. But for those who are not interested in being scared to death, yet wish to feel the thrill, data has shown that zip lining has become the … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

The Hottest Locales for Small Business in the U.S.

  The Hottest Locales for Small Business in the U.S. by Amy Lignor   No, Silicon Valley is not being replaced. However, with the Kauffman Foundation releasing its annual Startup Activity Index last week showing, in detail, trends in U.S. business startups for 2017, it was revealed that California has been booted out of first place. The top spot for new businesses to be built and thrive in the United States has been taken over by the big, … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Once Upon a Time Vacations

  Once Upon a Time Vacations by Amy Lignor   Whether you are a lover of history or you simply have the “Beauty & the Beast” obsession – which, according to movie revenue data, millions all over the world are suffering from – just think how amazing it would be to stay in an actual castle. We already know what the beauty would be from the female perspective, but when it comes to the gentlemen out there, just think about how much … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden

  Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden by Amy Lignor   Many are still dealing with that wintery mix Mother Nature just loves to toss down from the sky this time of year. Yet, that gardener living inside the soul – the one just dreaming of the sunny skies and lazy rainy days that are must-haves in order to grow the best vegetables possible – is already jotting down the facts, tricks and tips they need to know in order to make that … [Read More its Good for You...]